The Basketball Tournament is officially back!
While the full fledged “oh my goodness games all day long” tournament doesn’t kick off until July 13th, we will get two first round games and a second round game in the West region over the next two days. This is thanks to a TBT partnership with Spokane Hoopfest, an outdoor 3-on-3 tournament that’s been running in Washington State since 1990.
As is the case with the Big East pod of games that starts on Saturday in Milwaukee, all four teams in the Hoopfest pod are alumni teams. They’re not all from the same conference though, although the TBT organizers did go out of their way to give us a shot at getting a second round game between alumni of the reigning powers in the West Coast Conference.
All three games in the Hoopfest pod will be played at Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane. The first matchup of the night gives us Air Force Bomb Squad (Air Force alums, natch) squaring off against Gael Force, a team of Saint Mary’s alumni. AFBS is one of four teams in the 2018 tournament that have appeared in each of the previous four events. They’ll be led by Michael Lyons, who joined up with AFBS last year after spending the 2016-17 season with the Erie Bayhawks in the G-League. The former Falcons have won just one game in their previous TBT runs, a 116-66 win over Too Fresh in 2015.
The guys on on the Gael Force roster might not be household names across the country, but they are names by and large that are near and dear to the hearts of SMC fans. The team features two of Saint Mary’s top 10 all time scorers in Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson, with those guys going 2-1 all time in rebounds and 1-2 all time in blocks. Calvin Hermanson and Mickey McConnell are two of the six best three-point shooters in program history, and the roster features not one, but FOUR of the 10 best steals men in Gaels history. Simpson and Stephen Holt go 1-2 all time on the SMC swipes chart, so Gael Force may be a defensive force to be reckoned with in this tournament. Well, they will be if they can get out of the Hoopfest pod. Simpson and Emmett Naar, the Saint Mary’s all time assists leader, will not be in attendance for Hoopfest, but will join up with the team if they get to the Super 16 in Atlanta.
The second game on Friday pairs off Team Utah (Utah alums, of course) against Few Good Men, a team of Gonzaga alumni. See, Mark Few is the long-time Gonzaga coach and these guys played for Few, plus there’s the Tom Cruise/Jack Nicholson movie.... I’ll move on.
The Few Good Men roster is pretty different from last year’s FGM roster with just two players returning, but when you add two West Coast Conference Players of the Year, you’re doing pretty good. Matt Bouldin (2010 WCC POY) and Casey Calvary (2001 WCC POY) are aboard to help Steven Gray propel their squad further than the Super 16 appearance that they made last summer. Gray averaged over 24 points per game in FGM’s three games last year, so the question for the Zags is whether or not he can repeat that kind of performance.
The former Utes bring back 77% of the team’s scoring from the 2017 tournament team, but they probably aren’t super happy with the result of the bracketing. Team Utah lost 85-83 to Few Good Men in the second round of last year’s TBT, so there might be a little heat in this first round contest. Team Utah has bolstered their core four from last season with a few new additions that aren’t actually former Utes, including two guys who just wrapped up their collegiate careers this spring. We’ll see if the burst of youth from those young legs will be enough to help Team Utah avenge their loss from last year.
Thanks to the wonderful people in Bristol, Connecticut, both TBT games from the Hoopfest will be streamed live on ESPN3. If you’re jonesing from some high stakes basketball tonight, fire up your WatchESPN app and check out the action from Washington.
All times Central
7pm: Air Force Bomb Squad vs Gael Force
9pm: Team Utah vs Few Good Men